Soon after I moved to Nagano in 1997 I started hearing stories about a foreign resident and conservationist who had bought up tracts of land up in Shinano-machi. A decade later the Prince of Wales would visit these woodlands followed by Japan’s own royal family. C.W. Nicol became a bit of an “anti-urban” legend in these parts and throughout Japan back in his heyday. He lived many lives, from park ranger in Africa to pro wrestler, author, musician, martial artist…the list goes on.
Over the past couple years, our mutual friend, Peter Nierenberg, kept saying, “I need to get you up to Kurohime and visit Nic.” Any foreigner who has taught English in Nagano since the ’80s has—or knows someone who has—worked for Peter. We planned to see Nic last autumn, but for one reason or another weren’t able to. Sadly, C.W. Nicol passed away this spring, and Pete penned a remembrance of his old buddy “Nic” like only he could.
The current global situation has given many of us time to do things we’ve been putting off, whether it’s DIY projects at home or exploring our backyards. People are looking to avoid crowds and while Japan has one of the most efficient and reliable public transportation systems in the world, hiking, cycling or using your own vehicle are great ways to get around with plenty of elbow room.
Our Summer Camping Guide is here to help readers in Japan get out of the house and into some wide open spaces with friends and family this green season. Whether you prefer pitching your tent at a traditional campsite, cycle touring, auto camping or glamping in style, there are plenty of great options. Many places also have cabins or cottages, and BBQ facilities are widely available. If you don’t have your own gear, check which sites have rental tents, sleeping bags and other equipment. We’ll be regularly updating the Camping Guide with more locations on our website and sending updates on Facebook and Instagram, so be sure to give us a follow.
Musician and NatGeo host Nick Saxon traveled to Japan for another gig at Winterland in Nozawa Onsen before hitting the road in a camper van with our friends at Dream Drive. He and his fiancé, Shino, returned with a photo essay from some traditional Edo Period post towns and some new songs. Japan’s network of michi-no-eki (roadside stations) and numerous auto camping sites make traveling a breeze and a camper van provides the ultimate freedom of the road.
We also sat down with long-time Baird lead-brewer Chris Poel who has taken his talents on the road, gypsy brewing in Japan with various brewers and opening up his own Shiokaze BrewLab just outside of Tokyo. In Market Watch, Joan Bailey shares some organic farms in Japan that deliver fresh fruits and veggies directly to your door.
We hope our readers are spending some quality time with friends and family, supporting local businesses and exploring some new destinations in Japan this summer. There’s no better time to get outside and into the open spaces, and be grateful for this beautiful place we call home. Every season is a new adventure in Japan—enjoy Issue #75 (Summer 2020) and get out there!